On garden worries

P1000732Wet Swedish Fingerlings, aching for harvest

I admitted to a friend of mine that I have been having some episodes of insomnia lately.  My cause for worry?  Not global warming, not the health-care fiasco, not a terrorist attack.  Nope.  I was worried about my potatoes.

What’s to worry about potatoes?  Plant one in the ground, you get back 8-10 potatoes:  that kind of math should cause me no worries, right?  Well, true to form, our August has been a wet one.  And wet soil can mean rotten potatoes.  So every nightly thunderstorm, every nightly sprinkle, CLICK my eyelids flash open and I worryworryworry.

The first year the skies opened up in August I was told “this is highly unusual.”  Normally our Augusts see about 4″ of rain, nothing to sneeze at, but every year since I was apprised of what is “normal” we have had, in some instances, more than twice that number, sometimes on the same weekend.*  And here, the last day of August, we’re 3″ above normal.  Time to get the spuds out of the ground, and it’s time to find the time to do so.

(*If something happens four years in a row, isn’t that, well, NORMAL?  Like most things, I think we need to adjust our thinking.)

It’s a pity.  Leaving them in the ground (without rain, that is) is a great way to store them.  I would simply harvest them before the frost.  Ah well.  I have harvested about 75% of them and, well, I can now sleep at night!

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7 responses to “On garden worries

  1. You could always cover the ground with a sheet of something to keep the rain off. Tyvec is a building material that looks like paper, but is incredibly tough and is designed to let water vapour through while blocking liquid water. I haven’t tried this – only idle speculation. But I have done this – http://doorgarden.com/03/plastic-tunnel-cold-frame-row-cover to dry out beds for spring planting. BTW, if I leave my potatoes in the ground too long they get gnawed on my mice or voles or some other tunneling varmint.

  2. I’m starting to harvest our potatoes. We’ve had about an inch/week of rainfall, so no concern about the potatoes going bad. But I harvested half of a 25-foot row and got about 1 2/3 baskets of potatoes (a 1/2 bushel basket). Last year we had six baskets of potatoes for the two of us. This year I’ve got about 3 rows of potatoes planted. I’m guessing that this year we’re going to wind up with 8-9 baskets!! Far more than the two of us need! Want some potatoes (Grin)?

  3. We harvested ours some time ago, but we are not eating potatoes these days. We gave them away. I like the idea of storing them in the ground–especially since we do not have a basement or a root cellar where we can keep them.

  4. 4 years of wet is enough to set a new “normal” I think, sadly. But I hope next year is “abnormal” and dry! I always wondered about storing potatoes in the ground into the fall/winter, and how it worked in the weather. Can they stay once the ground freezes? If there is snow, would the freeze help keep out the snow moisture?

  5. I have the same type of weather related insomnia. It usually revolves around wind and hail though…I have slept pretty good so far this year…fingers crossed tightly.

  6. We had some lovely rain after a dry spell, and my tomatoes were just getting ripe. Rather than enjoy it, I laid in bed worrying that the fruit would split. (they didn’t).

  7. Thanks for the link to your quick hoops, David. Mike (he also commented on this thread) covers his winter crops with something very similar. But no, housewrap, tyvek, etc. is probably not destined for covering my beds any time soon…or any houses I build either. (Nope. I usually spec 30# felts for the houses.) Most likely, your vermin was voles. They like to tunnel. They had a field day with my sweet potatoes 2 years ago.

    Dennis, but just think: potatoes are one vegetable that is at home in ANY meal! In point of fact I am having spuds with my eggs as I type this. Congrats on a successful season.

    Oh Ed, I know. I am glad to hear the crop went to some willing people. You certainly do look like you’ve slimmed down quite a bit! There are all kinds of in-ground storage ideas, incidentally, like buried bushel baskets and even buried refrigerators. Like you’re going to do that in your city front yard: I am just saying. (OH and no fridge is ending up in our country one either, but then again, I have both root cellar AND basement.)

    MC, well, potatoes don’t really like being frozen, which is why they like the cool of a root cellar (which shouldn’t freeze). Something chemically changes in them: the starches go mushy or something, I have never tried it. But frozen potatoes certainly will make fine seed potatoes. My volunteer ones do!

    Mike, yikes, hail. Nope our fear is just the rain. It loosens the soil up so much, which is fine if you’re weeding but crummy if you’re growing tall things like sunflowers or amaranth. (Corn seems to do fine.) But last year we got 9″ of rain over one weekend in Sept. and that killed my potatoes pretty well, thus, my fear. They’re all in the root cellar now though! Spud fest ’09!

    Sara, good. It takes them a few days to split I have found so I hope you harvest them in that bubble of time where they’re still nice and intact and pretty. I am so glad to hear I am not the only one with sleep-loss garden worries though!

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